Reports: Obama administration developing drone assassination rulebook
End The Lie
End the Lie
November 26th, 2012
According to recently published reports, the Obama administration is just now developing a formal set of standards and procedures forĀ carrying out assassinations via unmanned aerial vehiclesĀ (UAVs), better known as drones.
Note:Ā thereĀ are increasingly worrisome developments in the realm of fully automated weapons systems, also known as ākiller robots,āĀ which are now being identified and criticized. These issues add an entirely new dimension to concerns surrounding unmanned warfare.
This is especially surprising given thatĀ the United Statesā drone assassination program has been in operation for quite a while nowĀ and has already led toĀ at least one lawsuit against the U.S. military and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
It is also interesting that U.S. Attorney General Eric HolderĀ claimed earlier this year that their secret reviews of evidence count as due process, giving the impression that they had some kind of guidelines in place already. This impression was also given over a year ago withĀ the realization of the secret death panels run by the National Security Council(NSC).
Yet apparently there have not been any formal guidelines in place this entire time, according to a report fromĀ The New York Times.
This would mean that Americans, includingĀ a 16-year-old boy, have been killed along withĀ unknown numbers of civiliansĀ in countries like Yemen (whereĀ at least 29 people were killed in just 8 days earlier this year) and Pakistan (which has seenĀ over 2,000 deathsĀ since Obama took office) without any actual rules governing such actions.
To make matters even more insane, theĀ TimesĀ reports, āObama and his advisers are still debating whether remote-control killing should be a measure of last resort against imminent threats to the United States, or a more flexible tool, available to help allied governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants from controlling territory.ā
One might point out thatĀ with signature strikes, it is already being used as āa more flexible tool.ā
Itās truly hard to tell what is really going on with the drone program sinceĀ Obama lies when discussing it with the mediaĀ and simply refuses to address the issue in a court of law.
According to Scott Shane, writing forĀ The New York Times, āThe attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the presidentās role in the shifting procedures for compiling ākill listsā and approving strikes.ā
However, itās worth pointing out that theĀ TimesĀ is essentially citing their own work as the impetus for the creation of this rulebook. Personally, I find such claims suspicious sinceĀ news outlets seem to love giving themselves credit where none is due.
A statement from an anonymous Obama administration official seems to indicate that the motives were not at all related to the earlier report.
āThere was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,ā said the unnamed official cited by theĀ Times.
The official added that Obama did not want to leave open the possibility of handing over an āamorphousā program to Romney.
Obama himself actually addressed the lack of a legal framework for the drone program in an interview on October 18Ā with Jon Stewart on āThe Daily Show.ā
āOne of the things weāve got to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined in but any presidentās reined in terms of some of the decisions that weāre making,ā Obama said.
Obama also addressed the issue when speaking to Mark Bowden for the book āThe Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden.ā Obama told Bowden that ācreating a legal structure, processes, with oversight checks on how we use unmanned weapons, is going to be a challenge for me and my successors for some time to come.ā
One could infer from that statement that there is indeed no legal structure, processes or oversight checks on how drones are currently used.
āThereās a remoteness to it that makes it tempting to think that somehow we can, without any mess on our hands, solve vexing security problems,ā Obama added.
The BritishĀ GuardianĀ cites Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Center for Democracy, a critic of the assassination program as well as theĀ TimesĀ article itself which, according to Jaffer, relied on āself-serving sources.ā
āTo say they are rewriting the rulebook implies that there is already a rulebook,ā Jaffer said. āBut what they are already doing is rejecting a rulebook ā of international law ā that has been in place since [the second world war].ā
āIt is frustrating how we are reliant on self-serving leaks,ā continued Jaffer. āWe are left with interpreting shadows cast on the wall. The terms that are being used by these officials are undefined, malleable and without definition. It is impossible to know whether they are talking about something lawful or unlawful.ā
āWe are litigating for the release of legal memos,ā said Jaffer, referring to the above-linked lawsuit. āWe donāt think the public should have to reply [sic] on self-serving leaking by unnamed administrative officials.ā
Jaffer also criticized the supposed debate within the government reported by theĀ Times.
āThe suggestion is that there is a significant debate going on within the administration about the scope of the governmentās authority to carry out targeted killings,ā said Jaffer. āI would question the significance of the debate. If imminent is defined as broadly as some say it is within the administration then the gap between the sides is narrow.ā
āIt matters how you define āimminent.ā The Bush administration was able to say it didnāt condone torture because of the definition of torture,ā Jaffer continued. āYou might think that if someone says, āI believe we should only use targeted killings only when thereās an imminent threat,ā you might think that sounds OK. But without terms like āimminentā being defined it is impossible to evaluate the arguments.ā
Indeed, it is nearly impossible to actually evaluate any of the arguments simply because the Obama administration refuses to actually outline the arguments in any unambiguous fashion, especially in a court of law.
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